The Great Nanny Experiment of 2012

Last May, when school was ending and summer time was rolling around, I realized I didn’t want to spend my mornings rousting my children out of bed to take them to daycare.

As far as I saw it, I had two choices:

1. Quit my job.
2. Hire a nanny.

We went with the second option. (The first is always very, very tempting.)

It was the right decision.

I’m not sure I will be able to adequately express the difference having a nanny made in my life. But I’m going to try.

Before I start to gush, I will state upfront that she wasn’t perfect. Kerry (not her real name) likes country music, which is probably about the only genre of music I don’t like. My kids learned some country songs over the summer, and also learned that “po-po” is slang in some circles for “police”. We’ll call it “broadening their horizons”.

Kerry also… how do I say this delicately? She could have chosen more modest clothing. Kerry is a big-boned, curvy girl, and likes short jean shorts and tank tops. I’m not sure if I had the right to say anything about this. (What say you, readers?)

Okay, the cons out of the way: OH MY GOSH, I WISH KERRY COULD BE OUR NANNY YEAR ROUND. SHE MADE A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN MY LIFE AND THE KIDS’ LIVES THIS SUMMER.

I’m not sure how much my children appreciate the fact that they didn’t have to go to daycare this summer. They slept in every morning (except that one time Flora got up at 2 a.m.). They played with their cousins several times a week (my niece and nephew were over Bella and Tadone’s quite often). They were able to take swim lessons.

Kerry had no problem driving the kids around. We installed carseats in her back seat, and she took them to the zoo, the Aviary, the mall, the park, the pool, and so on. She bought them little gifts. One night, she even took the girls to the Butler County Fair — they had a blast, of course.

This is what hiring a nanny did for me, though:

First, mornings were a breeze. I got up, got ready, got out the door. I didn’t have to herd the children out of bed, to the kitchen table, back upstairs to get dressed; I didn’t have to hassle my husband about getting out of bed. I came downstairs, poured myself some coffee, and drove to work.

It was a lovely, quiet time.

Second, after work I got home an entire hour earlier than I do during the school year. I didn’t have to run around picking up the children from their school and daycares. We had an extra hour to play games, go for walks, read books or do crafts. Evenings were *relaxing*, not the usual mad dash to bedtime.

Third, my house was clean. So clean. Kerry guided the girls through picking up the house, putting clean dishes and clean laundry away, making their beds. She got them to vacuum, she showed them how to load the dishwasher. And so when I came home at 4:30 p.m., things were neat and organized. It was so… light to come home to a picked up house. I breathed more easily, I didn’t feel so overwhelmed.

Lastly were little odds and ends I could depend on Kerry for: tiny errands to pick up dry cleaning or groceries, having the kids bake or make pizza dough, running them to meet me at the mall when I had an eye appointment. It’s probably all these little things that assumed the most weight. The fact that I neither had to bug Dan nor do it myself — stop for milk, grab a birthday card, handle two children while the other one had an appointment.

Sometimes, moms joke about “having a wife”. Whether we work full-time or part-time outside of the home, or are home full-time with our children, sometimes we wish for another body to send on errands, another body to occupy one or two children while we do laundry or cook dinner — or conversely, a body to do the chores while we watch the kids. In most households, we moms still take on the majority of housework and childcare. Even though dads are more involved, it’s still not a 50-50 split in most households. So sometimes we wish for that third body. (Or telekinesis — just me?)

Having a nanny — a childcare worker who came to the house — was like having a wife for me. It was rather glorious.

Overall, of course, and most importantly, Kerry was great with the kids. She interacted with them, guided them through their day, keeping them busy with fun and with chores. Michael adored her. Kate and Flora listened to her (there was an end-of-summer dust-up) and enjoyed being with her. She really loved them (and has already offered to babysit when we need her).

So, I can easily forgive her for teaching my kids a couple of country songs. I’m not sure, if she weren’t a teacher and could work for us year-round, how we would have kept her on. It sure would be nice if she could pick up the girls from school and get their homework underway. But as it is, we’ll have to muddle along without her… (I have some ideas about that).

Do you sometimes wish for a wife?

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27 thoughts on “The Great Nanny Experiment of 2012

  1. With all those positive things in play, I wouldn’t make a peep about her clothing choices. I would be all about not rocking the boat.

    I will admit that back when I was married, I wished I had a “husband,” who would cut the grass, rake the leaves and fix things. I was perfectly fine with handling the burping, farting and watching TV.

  2. Oh how I wish for a wife sometimes. I joke all the time with Cassie about moving up there to Pittsburgh and becoming her pseudo sister wife. How glorious would that be?

  3. I’d love a wife. Especially now.

    I’m super excited that you had a less stressed summer. I know this has been a constant issue for you. And trust me, being at home 24/7 isn’t always greener, which I know you know. (Can we say hell-o gym and hospital? Yay for jobs!)

    More importantly, I’m glad for your kids, too. I’m sure they’ll remember this summer as one of the best.

    • My gosh, I bet!

      It’s funny, sometimes I look at my life, and see who I’m paying to do what, and I think, “I should stay home.” But then I think, “I did that, and it didn’t go well, emotionally or financially. I should work.” But I do wish I could work part-time. Oh, how I wish that, and I’m still trying to make it happen!

      Yes, I think my kids were better rested and less stressed, and they had a lot of fun. They are ready to go back to school now, but this was a great, great summer for all of us.

  4. This post reminding me of when my mother was a nanny, the child was like part of our family. We still see him from time to time. I am blessed to have my wife at home with the kids, but will understand more as she starts to look for work this year. It’s been 10 years with her as a stay at home mom. Luckily I am close to home and their school.

  5. I’m so glad that worked out so well for you. I do long for a lot of the things you mention. As you know I was considering going from daycare to nanny. A number of factors have made us decide to stick with daycare for now (and I think I solved my preschool logistics problem. I need to make some calls today. Fingers crossed!)

    Perhaps when my kids are older we’ll re-visit the nanny option. I hope I find someone as good as you did (ideally without the country music and with a little more clothing).

  6. As long as your kids aren’t all “Obama’s a secret Mormon who hates America!”, a little country music might be good for them. Let’s call it a stage they will go through. I’m sure there are worse lyrics they could be repeating. (Paging 50 Cent)

    When you first mentioned “nanny,” I was picturing either an ex-East German shot putter or a St. Pauli girl. Sounds like you split the difference.

    I got Jean an inexpensive, every-other-Thursday cleaning woman. It has been a blessing for our marriage.

      • Kerry was very much along the lines of St. Pauli girl, less the braids. And, yes, sex, religion, and politics were totally off the table as topics!

        Our other investment as far as housework is to have my MIL do our laundry. It’s the best money we spend as far as I’m concerned.

  7. I too love my nanny. It is SO refreshing to come home to a straightened up house, which she does while the kids are napping. Woman can’t load the dishwasher right to save her life (pointing away from the sprayer, ahem), but I forgive that for everything else. She is worth EVERY PENNY. My MIL offered to watch them one day a week to save me the money. No. Not at the risk of losing Ms G!

  8. Uh, how many times you want I should say this? We’ll do it. In between school times for yours, we’ll hang with M & you know, rehab your house. And I’ll get my writing done too. Go ahead, you know you want to say yes!

  9. Great post! As someone who’s hired nannies for my part-time work, I’m always fascinated to read what others ask of their nannies. I’ve always just hired people to be strictly in charge of the children…when they were napping I imagined that as break time. But it occurs to me I could be asking for dishwashing or at the very least insisting that the toys be picked up by the end of the shift. Do you specify all these expectations during the interview? How did you go about making it clear that you were looking for tidying/errand-running/chores too?

    • Yes, I did talk about my expectations during the interview process, asked how they felt about driving with the children (to lessons or for errands, for example), and talked about what I called “light housekeeping”. I didn’t expect my nanny to clean my bathrooms, you know? Then when we hired Kerry, I actually wrote up a contract spelling everything out. (Yes, I am a little OCD, why do you ask?) The nanny had the girls do the chores, which is what I wanted. The girls picked up after themselves, and vacuumed, and made their beds, etc. She helped, but the girls did the bulk of the work. I would think in your case, you could reasonably expect a nanny to do “light housekeeping”. That would entail things like washing dishes (that she and the kids used) and cleaning up toys, definitely.

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